I read this book as my 4th in the Back to the Classics Challenge in the category of "A Classic Which Has Been Banned or Censored".
I'm not really sure what I was expecting when I read this book. Perhaps I was expecting it to be more like Lady Chatterly's Lover that I read last year, but it was quite different. I liked that it was written in the style of letters. It's just fun to read from all perspectives in the first person. But since it was written this way, it takes a bit to understand what is really going on. Thankfully even to get to the point of understanding what is happening is not dull, but since it is written in letters, we do not have all the details one would have from a narrative. Thankfully it is enough for this book.
I'm not really sure what to say about this book. I've taken a couple of days to reflect on it because I can't say I liked it, but I didn't dislike it either. In the introduction, it says that this book is shocking, but honestly there is nothing shocking about it. In fact it's an excellent look at how depraved humanity really is in some respects and yet how much grace God gives in others. I like that it is evident what is happening without graphic details. But sometimes the language of the day makes you wonder exactly what is meant by "x".
So I dislike all of the lies, deception and complete desire to corrupt that comes from 2 of the main characters. I dislike the blatant stupidity of characters that are clearly not that stupid. I dislike that there is no distinction between love, lust, infatuation, etc by characters who clearly are smart enough to know the difference and that love is used to excuse many things that happen throughout the book.
What I do like is the clear battle between flesh and spirit, though not done in an overt way. I like that work has to be done and not everyone simply gives into their feelings just because they want to (though some of them do). I like that those who are seeking to corrupt are brought to justice, but sadly, those directly effected by their corruption are also brought to ruin. There is not any sign of redemption for the others involved, which I realize may be true in life, but often times redemption is present, especially for those who are seeking God.
I think another thing that personally struck me in this book is how easily I could have been any of these characters, not only the innocent, but those who do the corrupting. For me it was a great reminder of how much grace God has given me to not be those people who merely seek the pleasure of the flesh, but seek after God and His ways and the true pleasure that following Him brings.
This is one that falls into I cannot say I recommend, but would say not to read either. You have to know yourself. On a light note, some of the "love letters" written could be a great lesson for men today who don't know how to express their feelings. But again, I can't say I would necessarily recommend the whole thing.
With all of that I would probably give this book 3 stars.